A revised ordinance banning commercial vending activity on the west side of Ocean Front Walk in Venice and limiting sound levels created by permit holders may soon be put in place on what is commonly called the Boardwalk.
Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents Venice in the 11th Council District, has proposed to the City Council a newly revised ordinance regulating vending on the Boardwalk.
The City Council is expected to address the ordinance by Friday, January 20th.
The councilman made the pledge to Venice and Boardwalk community members at the third and final town hall meeting he hosted Tuesday, January 10th.
“Our number-one goal tonight is to resolve the issue of commercial vending along the Ocean Front Walk,” Rosendahl told the town hall audience.
Rosendahl held the town hall meetings along with representatives from offices of the city attorney, Department of Recreation and Parks and Los Angeles Police Department after the City Council voted last summer to repeal parts of the vending ordinance at the urging of the city attorney.
City attorneys had said that the ordinance provisions forbidding commercial sales on the west side of the Boardwalk were “too vague and ambiguous.”
The City Council action occurred only weeks after a civil rights lawsuit was filed against the city by vendors opposed to the ordinance regulations.
Rosendahl said the purpose of the town hall meetings was to develop a program that will protect free speech and artistic expression, ban commercial vending and protect neighbors from undue noise and disruption on the Boardwalk.
Following the first town hall meeting in August, city attorneys proposed to remove parts of the ordinance that define commercial vending and amend the ordinance to include a specific definition.
City attorney representative Mark Brown, who presented a draft vending ordinance at the third town hall meeting, said the proposed law defines which vending activities are permitted on the west side of the Boardwalk and “addresses the problem of noise.”
The draft ordinance states:
“No person shall engage in vending activity” on the west side of the Boardwalk, but lists specific exemptions to the provisions.
Vending is defined as selling, offering for sale, exposing for sale, soliciting offers to purchase or bartering.
According to the draft ordinance, the provisions “shall not apply” to the following;
n performance artists;
n any individual or organization vending newspapers, leaflets, pamphlets, bumper stickers or buttons; or
n any individual or organization that vends items which have been created, written, composed or otherwise produced by the vendor, such as books, cassette tapes, compact discs, paintings, sculptures, or any other item that is inherently communicative and has nominal utility apart from its communication.
Examples of items that have more than “nominal utility” and may not be vended include — but are not limited to — housewares, appliances, articles of clothing, oils, incense, lotions, candles and jewelry, the draft ordinance states.
Persons engaging in the exempted vending activities must hold a valid public expression permit issued by the Department of Recreation and Parks, the ordinance states.
Exempted activities are not allowed between 10:30 p.m. and 9 a.m. daily.
Some Boardwalk community members at the town hall meeting said they supported the draft law and were anxious to have it put in place.
“I like it a lot because it protects the performers’ interests and the people on the east side of the Walk’s interests too,” said Tim Eric, a Boardwalk performance artist.
“I think it’s a very good proposal and I would like to see that it goes forth,” he said.
“I wholeheartedly support the draft ordinance and the idea of nominal utility,” merchant Steve Human said.
Barbara Duffy, of the Venice Beach Merchants Association, said the merchants support putting the law in place because commercial vending outside stores is “hurting us.”
“We’re all in favor of the new draft,” Duffy said.
But while most Boardwalk representatives at the meeting were in favor of eliminating commercial vending, some said the draft ordinance is still not acceptable.
“The whole ordinance has nothing to do with the free spirit of Venice,” said Peggy Lee Kennedy of Venice Food Not Bombs, a plaintiff in the civil rights lawsuit.
Another lawsuit plaintiff, Robert “Jingles” Newman, expressed opposition to not being allowed to sell T-shirts with political messages, and said the draft ordinance may lead to future lawsuits.
Several free speech organizations only want to sell T-shirts, but some merchants feel it would open a “Pandora’s box” for commercial sales, the draft ordinance proposal notes.
Some longtime Boardwalk vendors are also concerned about the ordinance restricting their ability to sell many items which they say have a religious purpose.
A.K. Rangaswamy, a ten-year Boardwalk vendor, currently sells a host of items that would become prohibited from vending, including incense, jewelry and T-shirts, if the new draft ordinance is adopted.
“These are 100 percent religious items,” Rangaswamy said.
Another aspect of the draft ordinance that was debated by town hall audience members was regarding noise regulations.
According to the proposal, no permit holder on the Boardwalk “shall make or cause any noise” that can be heard at a distance greater than 25 feet from their designated space, or from inside an adjacent building when the doors and windows are closed.
Tony Vera, a street performer who uses music during his act, said it would be difficult to limit the noise to 25 feet, but he’ll “turn it down.”
Some Boardwalk community representatives oppose the 25-foot rule for regulating noise, but support the use of a decibel reader, according to the draft ordinance.
Rosendahl said the revised ordinance will be brought to the City Council and should be considered by January 20th.
If the ordinance is adopted, Rosendahl plans to establish a working group with the Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council and Boardwalk stakeholders to “monitor the effects of the new ordinance,” and conduct a public education campaign to educate the community about the ordinance.
Mike Bonin, Rosendahl chief of staff, said that on the first City Council vote, the ordinance must receive 12 votes in support and no votes opposed in order to be adopted. Otherwise it will go for a second vote later.
If the ordinance is adopted on the first vote it could be in place by late February, Bonin said.